Microsoft revealed today that it will ship the long-awaited final release candidate build of Windows .NET Server 2003, Release Candidate 2 (RC2), to testers, partners, and corporate preview customers later this week. Microsoft will then release Win.NET Server to manufacturing in early 2003 and will launch the product in April 2003, though an exact venue and release date has not been announced.
"With the Windows .NET Server RC1 release in August, we instituted the Customer Preview Program, a broad reach program to let people gets their hands on the product," Bob O'Brien, the Win.NET Server Group Product Manager told me recently. "Over the last 100 days or so, we've seen amazing uptake on that program. We had anticipated 100,000 to 125,000 people would join the program, but over the last 100 days, we've distributed 350,000 copies of RC1, plus another 10,000 to 20,000 at \[the COMDEX Fall 2002 trade\] show. Every one of those customers can download RC2 on the day it becomes available."
Microsoft also announced this week that Win.NET Server will be accompanied with less restrictive licensing terms. In addition to per-device Client Access Licenses (CALs), Win.NET Server customers can purchase per-user CALs, which should save money for enterprises with users who connect with many devices, such as desktop PCs, laptop PCs, and Pocket PCs. Customers can use either CAL method, or mix them as appropriate. Microsoft is also introducing a new licensing option called External Connector, which lets an organization's partners and customers access servers remotely via the Internet with requiring individual CALs. The External Connector replaces a previous option called Internet Connector, which required a company's external partners and customers to purchase individual CALs.
Finally, Microsoft is also changing the licensing for Terminal Server, the Win.NET Server component that lets users remotely access server-based applications and services. Previously, each Windows desktop operating system license included a free Terminal Server CAL. Now, customers will have to purchase one Terminal Server CAL for each user that accesses the service.